i. I forgot how to love properly a long time ago. That’s all.
ii. Sitting at the base of my couch with a bag of chips is how I spend Saturdays. I cram on Friday and Sunday. I like the balance of it. It’s my study-television-study weekend sandwich. When the news comes on at its periodic times I stop to watch. That’s depressing though, so occasionally I watch the celebrity news. Celebrities freak me out. I remember when I used to watch Project Runway with my mother and Heidi Klum always said the same thing when the contestants were about to start their runway show, “One day you’re in, and the next day, you’re out.” At first I thought it was really brutal, but in the end I had to come to terms with myself. If a celebrity has a relationship, they can go out to a bar or some jazz and kiss a person one time and the next day they file a one trillion dollar divorce. This is why I don’t ever want to start a relationship. I’ve screwed up enough already.
iii. When you count money, you will probably try to make it a littler easier on yourself by doing it by fives, or tens, but it would be last resort to count by ones. I stopped counting when my mother stopped earning. Her voice became weaker at night and she racked her head against the wall every now and then. I don’t know why, but I started going out more. Found myself a job. Attended the community college a few miles away. As much as I wanted to leave and run away from our apartment I never could. There’s something in me that wants to help people all the time. That might be why I never help myself from dumping my paychecks into homeless shelter funds, or clickbait charities that I know not to click. Compassion is wholehearted. The feeling takes my mind off of which discount bag of chips I need to buy for my Saturday night ritual. When I buy chips I normally just get them at the Whole Foods where I work since there’s always an employee discount. Nobody really uses it because it makes you look like a cheapo or one of those coupon collecting, saving-loving PTO moms, but I don’t mind. I’m flat broke half the time anyway. Walking into my shift is a pretty sweet transition. I hide a cake pop under my sleeve and take over the icing bag after Lorraine and wait for customers. Sometimes I like to think that I get extra pay because so many people come in on weekends to get cakes or treats for kids’ birthday parties or other communal gatherings. There’s one couple that I watch from my peripheral vision every once in awhile; around twelve in the afternoon they sit and grab some lunch. The mundanity of it makes icing “Happy Birthday” a billion times more worth it.
iv.. Going from the Whole Foods back to the apartment is hard. If I get bored and no clients come in for a cake, I start thinking of the giant store as a giant, oddly constructed house. I map it out in the same way every time. My bedroom would be towards the freezer aisle and my parents’ master bedroom can sit next to the big windows near the cashier. We’d have a living space in the center and a dining room where they have the drinks near the entrance. If I feel good enough I put Dad in an armchair next to my work post. Instead, the apartment is one cohesive room with two chairs and one table and one couch and one bed and one sleeping bag where I move to when my mother begins to wake up in the middle of the night to lean over the one toilet in our one bathroom. Dad isn’t there either.
v. I stopped trusting men when Dad left. I don’t really understand why, but he was at home one day cooking pasta and the next day he comes home with divorce papers. If you think about it, when you date someone you either get married or you break up. My parents used to say “I love you” to each other before they left for work. I knew that they were doing it for me, but when they split they made that choice for themselves. I look at happy couples and think about if they’re going to last or if they’ll crash and burn. I don’t think I want to take that half and half chance.
vii. The couple I usually see broke up. The guy is cheating.
viii. My mother asks me to do things for her every now and then. When she gets drunk she’ll call me a lazy-good-for-nothing, but when she’s feeling sober she asks me to grab Hot Pockets or some frozen meal for dinner. I just go to the Walmart across the street and stand longingly in the freezer aisle pretending that it’s all Dad’s cooking.
ix. If there’s one thing I’ve come to learn about living on what you’ve got, it’s that buying frozen meals instead of going out to eat is one of the smartest money-saving moves you can make.
x. The classes at the community college are not that great. Since it’s my first year, they require me to take a course that sets you up for a certain job. I don’t really have an outlook on what I want to do; I just want to earn enough to put my mother into a good rehab facility. I want to buy myself an apartment with more than one room.
xi. If there’s any place I visit more often it’s the toiletries aisle in Walmart. Most of the time my mother gets dead drunk and yells at me to go buy tissues and paper towels, mainly in part of her broken, spilling bottles on the floor or the fact that she cries on and on about my failure as a child and how I look just like my father. I don’t know about you, but Dad’s DNA was pretty in line with the laws of science, so I’m pretty sure I’d at least get something from him. So anyway, I stand in this aisle a lot. Most of the people that sheaf through the paper towels or dish soap look like they need it; PTO moms, grandmas, PTO moms. The diapers are behind me, and I think snacks are in the row next to me, so I always use my change to pick up an Almond Joy. This world is pretty dark, so candy bars make me feel like I’m somewhere else.
xii. I gave up. My mother bounced around the kitchen in a frenzy one night because I got home late. I slept on the floor with bruises and a duffel bag under my blanket.
xiii. Getting used to morning shift is a lot harder you’d anticipate. I grab a frosting bag and feel the sunlight burn my eyes through the window-markered automatic doors. I don’t know why little kids have birthday parties so freaking early. That mean I need to pump my frosting bag more than usual. These over-ecstatic moms always seem way more pumped than the kids do.
xiv. The last time my mother said she loved me was when I was thirteen. I hung up on those words every time I went to bed hurting, or every time I ate alone at night because I was too afraid to sit across from her. A guidance counselor at the community college said that I loved her because she was my mother. I only loved her because of the way it made me feel, because she was the only thing that Dad never took away with him to take care of, that everything he couldn’t do to save her was a task I had to complete.
xviii. I remember that Dad always lied about his recipe for homemade pizza, and that it was actually Digiorno’s from the frozen aisle. So I take one out of the fridge and hope that Mom will be sober by the time she gets back. We’ll have a meal together in this little apartment. That’s all.